Friday, December 9, 2011

Children Under Attack: A Culture of Unpunished Exploitation 2/2

by Nomad

In this second part of the two part series, I want to return to Afghan in order to investigate how a corporation, contracted by the government, can repeatedly escape justice after engaging in activities that would never be tolerated closer to home.

DynCorp: Never in the Penalty Box
The DynCorp scandal is a demonstration of what happens when governments and corporations collude to prevent scandals from reaching the public. Without this exposure, and without the perpetrators being brought to justice, the likelihood that similar incidents will recur is greater.

It is a fatally easy step from “butt-covering” and closed-doors in-house investigations to no substantive action at all. The array of bureaucratic tricks can be used to thwart any outside inspection: from delays and excuse making, to the formation of endless committees without any clear mandate, reports that are authorized but never followed up on, shifting personnel and consolidation of departments.

Take DynCorp as an example.

DynCorp was one of the top contractors when it came to logistics for the US armed forces. Among its many services, DynCorp recruits, trains and deploys civilian peacekeepers and police trainers to 11 countries, including Haiti, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, for the Department of State.

According to Its website
DynCorp International is a global government services provider in support of U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives, delivering support solutions for defense, diplomacy, and international development... We provide support to protect American diplomats in high-threat countries, and services to eradicate illicit narcotics crops and support drug-interdiction efforts in South America. We are engaged in the removal and destruction of landmines and light weapons in Afghanistan. We have vast international experience and operate on all continents except Antarctica.
We provide logistics and contingency support to the U.S. military and our allies around the world, including major platform support, logistics, and contingency operations programs in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific Rim, and Africa.
Conflicts around the world and man-made and natural disasters have been very big business for DynCorp.
Kathryn Bolkovac
Following the war in the former republic of Yugoslavia, DynCorp had a $15 million contract to hire and train police officers for duty in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However in 1999, US police investigator Kathryn Bolkovac was fired from DynCorp after blowing the whistle on a sex-slave ring operating on one of our bases there.

As one source tells us, according to a second informant, Ben Johnston, who worked for the company in Bosnia and Herzegovina, DynCorp employees and supervisors engaged in sex with 12 to 15 year old children, and sold them to each other as slaves. Ben Johnston ended up being fired, (the circumstances suggest it was a setup to discredit him). He was later forced into protective custody. According to Johnston, none of the girls were from Bosnia and Herzegovina itself, but were kidnapped by DynCorp employees from Russia, Romania and other places.

Ultimately, the company fired eight employees for their alleged involvement in sex trafficking and illegal arms deals. None, however, were prosecuted as they also enjoy immunity from prosecution in Bosnia and Herzegovina.Judges outside of the region, however, were not so willing to forget and forgive. As Salon.com reports
The court actions — one in the United Kingdom, the other in Fort Worth, Texas — suggest that the company did not move aggressively enough when reports of sexual misconduct among its employees began to emerge in 1999.

The tribunal in the U.K. found that DynCorp employee Kathryn Bolkovac “acted reasonably,” but that the company did not.

“DynCorp is an enormous operation, with strong ties to the U.S. government,” Bolkovac’s legal representative, Karen Bailey, said in a prepared statement. “She took on the big guns and won. The plight of trafficking victims is appalling and I’m glad that Kathryn’s case has gone some way to bringing it to wider attention.”

The tribunal found that DynCorp Aerospace UK Ltd., a subsidiary of DynCorp Inc., violated the U.K.’s whistle-blowing statute — the Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998 — when the company fired Bolkovac. A separate hearing is scheduled for October to determine what damages DynCorp should face.
For its part, DynCorp executives claimed that whistle-blower Bolkovac had been fired for falsifying time sheets. However, she countered that the company had fired after only she had sent an email to the company (as well as UN authorities) detailing the company’s “complicity in forced prostitution by international aid workers, including members of the International Police Task Force.” The British employment tribunal supported Bolkovac's version of events, finding little to support DynCorp's claim against Bolovac and describing the evidence DynCorp provided as being "sketchy to the point of nonexistent," according to Bolkovac's attorneys.”

In the wake of the Bosnia sex slave scandal, President Bush declared zero tolerance for involvement in human trafficking by federal employees and contractors in a National Security Presidential Directive he signed in December 2002. However Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) found that, during the Iraqi reconstruction, DynCorp overcharged the government for unauthorized and unapproved construction work.

On March 11th 2005, Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney asked some important questions of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Myers about the Dyncorp scandal. The exchange was definitely icy and it was apparent that no love was lost between Rumsfeld and McKinney.
Cynthia McKinney: "Mr. Secretary, I watched President Bush deliver a moving speech at the United Nations in September 2003, in which he mentioned the crisis of the sex trade. The President called for the punishment of those involved in this horrible business. But at the very moment of that speech, Dyncorp was exposed for having been involved in the buying and selling of young women and children. While all of this was going on, Dyncorp kept the Pentagon contract to administer the smallpox and anthrax vaccines, and is now working on a plague vaccine through the Joint Vaccine Acquisition Program. Mr. Secretary, is it [the] policy of the U.S. Government to reward companies that traffic in women and little girls?"

Donald Rumsfeld: “Thank you, Representative. First, the answer to your first question is, no, absolutely not, the policy of the United States Government is clear, unambiguous, and opposed to the activities that you described. The second question —”

McKinney: “Well how do you explain the fact that DynCorp and its successor companies have received and continue to receive government contracts?”

Rumsfeld: I would have to go and find the facts, but there are laws and rules and regulations with respect to government contracts, and there are times that corporations do things they should not do, in which case they tend to be suspended for some period; there are times then that the - under the laws and the rules and regulations for the - passed by the Congress and implemented by the Executive branch - that corporations can get off of - out of the penalty box if you will, and be permitted to engage in contracts with the government. They're generally not barred in perpetuity.

McKinney: This contract, this company, was never in the penalty box...

A few minutes later, Rumsfeld addressed the issue again after a brief consultation with his advisers..
Rumsfeld: “I'm advised by Dr. Chu that it was not the corporation that was engaged in the activities you characterized but I'm told it was an employee of the corporation, and it was some years ago in the Balkans that that took place.”
McKinney: “It's my understanding that it continues to take place, and..”
Rumsfeld: “Is that right? Well if you could give me information to that effect..”
McKinney: “I am sure you are interested in all the information that I have, and I will be more than happy to provide it for you.”
Rumsfeld: “Good, thank you.
It’s fairly clear by the exchange that Rumsfeld was not well-informed on the issue and seemed as though he couldn’t have cared less. His attempts to place the blame not on DynCorp but on the individuals that were employed by the company, some felt, was a blatant attempt to hide the fact that human trafficking and sex slavery is a practice if not condoned by companies like Dyncorp and Halliburton subsidiaries like KBR, then ignored. So what did zero tolerance actually mean? Zero apparently meant absolutely nothing.

Nearly a year passed, and still nothing had changed. Five defense lobbying groups fought parts of Bush’s security directive which would have prohibited contractor involvement in human trafficking in forced prostitution. According to a Chicago Tribune article,
The lobbying groups opposing the plan say they're in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic. They represent thousands of firms, including some of the industry's biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, both of which have been linked to trafficking-related concerns.
Why would the prohibition on sex slavery of corporation be unrealistic? Why would it have been unachievable? The objections to the plan were, in themselves, revealing.

Service Providers
Despite all those warnings, DynCorp was awarded a multi-billion contract to train Afghan police The results were predictable. According to one source:
America has spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force, buying weapons, building police academies, and hiring defense contractors to train the recruits—but the program has been a disaster. More than $322 million worth of invoices for police training were approved even though the funds were poorly accounted for, according to a government audit, and fewer than 12 percent of the country's police units are capable of operating on their own. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the State Department's top representative in the region, has publicly called the Afghan police "an inadequate organization, riddled with corruption."

And if you thought this couldn’t get worse, it did. Wikileaks published a cable that revealed another possible sex scandal involving DynCorp. According to an article in Houston Post,
The Afghanistan cable (dated June 24, 2009) discusses a meeting between Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and US assistant ambassador Joseph Mussomeli. Prime among Atmar's concerns was a party partially thrown by DynCorp for Afghan police recruits in Kunduz Province.

Many of DynCorp's employees are ex-Green Berets and veterans of other elite units, and the company was commissioned by the US government to provide training for the Afghani police. According to most reports, over 95 percent of its $2 billion annual revenue comes from US taxpayers.
In the leaked cable, Atmar appears desperate that any mention of the fesitivities not reach the mainstream media, claiming that it would endanger lives. How could news of a party endanger lives?

An article about the events in The Washington Post also revealed that, at least two videos were recorded at the party in April 2009. It reportedly shows some 15 DynCorp personnel egging on the boy dancer, who came from a nearby village and was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, with a long scarf tied around his waist, as he moved around a DynCorp employee sitting on a single chair in a courtyard.

Although it sounds rather silly, perhaps, it doesn’t seem all that sordid. One would assume that in accordance with Islamic prohibitions, the party would be all male. Still, there was more than meets the eye. It’s important to read between the lines and to understand the social context.

The first tip-off is, of course, if the party was innocent, one might wonder, then why the panic from local officials?

Atmar himself gives the game away in the cable. He disclosed that he has arrested two Afghan police and nine other Afghans as part of an Ministry of Interior investigation into Afghans who facilitated this crime of “purchasing a service from a child.” It’s not hard to understand what this euphemism is supposed to mean.
..(B)acha bazi is a pre-Islamic Afghan tradition that was banned by the Taliban. Bacha boys are eight- to 15-years-old. They put on make-up, tie bells to their feet and slip into scanty women's clothing, and then, to the whine of a harmonium and wailing vocals, they dance seductively to smoky roomfuls of leering older men.

After the show is over, their services are auctioned off to the highest bidder, who will sometimes purchase a boy outright. And by services, we mean anal sex: The State Department has called bacha bazi a "widespread, culturally accepted form of male rape." (While it may be culturally accepted, it violates both Sharia law and Afghan civil code.)
A PBS/Frontline documentary on the practice quoted one official familiar with the practice:
"It's a disgusting practice. ... It's a form of slavery, taking a child, keeping him. It's a form of sexual slavery," says Radhika Coomaraswamy, U.N. special representative for Children and Armed Conflict. "The only way to stop bacha bazi is if you prosecute the people who commit the crime, and that's what we need, because the laws are there in the books against this practice."
Pastun Orphan
According to the author of Afghanistan Beyond 2014 , Musa Khan Jalalzai, this tradition has become a real problem for the emerging Afghan society.
Pashtun transport mafia is deeply involved with the business and every two in ten Pashtun truck drivers are involved in male prostitution. In Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Bannu, Waziristan, Zabul, Quetta, Kandahar and Khost, male prostitution is not considered an illegal custom... Afghan police officers are deeply involved in male prostitution while Interior Ministry in Kabul has recently received thousands complaints from locals regarding the police sexual attacks on young boys.
Whether or not DynCorp participated in the pimping of boys for the Afghan police is open to doubt, of course. It might well have been an innocent celebration but given the company's past history of alleged sex slave trafficking, and accusations of other misconduct, it shows exceptionally poor judgement. It was also extremely disrespectful to the culture and to the religion. The fact that nobody had second thoughts about the wisdom of having such a party indeed casts some suspicion that the party was as innocent as Dyncorp would later claim.

An email communication from DynCorp Chief Compliance Officer Joe Kale to its employees attempted to downplay the incident, by calling them “sensational and inaccurate” and “baseless.” (The information came from a State Department cable so that seems a strange remark.)

An attorney for one of Dyncorp’s whistle-blowers stated his opinion of Dyncorp quite clearly:
"This is more than one twisted mind. There was a real corporate culture with a deep commitment to a cover-up. And it's outrageous that DynCorp still is being paid by the government on this contract. The worst thing I've seen is a DynCorp e-mail after this first came up where they're saying how they have turned this thing into a marketing success, that they have convinced the government that they could handle something like this."
In the end, DynCorp needn’t have bothered to defend itself in the media.
Its contracts were neither reviewed nor canceled. In fact, DynCorp was rewarded with series of extremely lucrative contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, which accounted for 53% of its $3.1 billion of annual revenue.

Meanwhile the Bush Administration still attempted to portray itself as a crusader against the very thing DynCorp- one of its largest contractors in the Middle East- was accused of.
Human traffickers prey on the most vulnerable and turn a commercial profit at the expense of innocent lives... The State Department's efforts to end this evil trade exemplify transformational diplomacy. We work with international partners to secure the freedom of those who are exploited and call on governments to be effective and accountable in prosecuting those who exploit.
It would appear that this is, as one security analyst has put it, high road" rhetoric giving way to a "low-road" reality.

In an interview Noam Chomsky was asked whether there was any self-reflection about the negative attitudes toward the US by so many around the world. President Bush had asked “Why do they hate us so much?” Didn’t this suggest, after 911 and all the chaos that followed, that America and its leaders were considering a different kind of foreign policy? Chomsky was unequivocal.
I would discount Bush’s statement. That was a rhetorical question, not a real question, if what he was saying was: “We are so marvelous and wonderful. How can anybody hate us?” And then the official answer that comes across from New York Times and other commentators is, “Well, they hate us because we are so wonderful. That must be why they hate us.” Incidentally a long theme in the history of imperialism—go back to British imperialism, French imperialism in its worst days—that’s the kind of theme that is projected by intellectuals. ”We are marvelous, we are angelic, we are wonderful, we are trying to do things for the these poor people. If they hate us it’s because they are backward.”
There's no need to pretend to be perfect, or wonderful or marvelous. It's not about being loved or being hated but just doing the right thing more often than doing the wrong. It's about justice for all and not one form of justice for Americans and a lesser form for the rest of the world. It's about law and order and behaving in a respectable manner.
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